The liberal war on football

Jonathan Chait writing in New York magazine: (hat tip to Isegoria and neorxn.com) (Also, that’s American football, for my European readers.)

…The same organization cited by Time found that, over a 30-year period, football is not a uniquely deadly sport for high-school athletes. It is not even the deadliest sport. High-school football has a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants. This is actually lower than the rates of boys’ basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys’ gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3)…

Over the last generation, the social experience of American youth has rapidly liberalized. The cultural mores of my school life largely resembled those of my parents’, but the socialization awaiting my children has transformed beyond recognition… In fact, it is a sign of this advance that American society is now questioning whether football has any role within it at all. But it also marks a point where the advance of social liberalism has swung from the defensive (creating a place of respect and value for those who have long been excluded) to the offensive (suggesting that only a world conforming closely to down-the-line-liberal values is worth living in).

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued that people naturally gravitate toward competing notions of morality. Some of those, like fairness and caring, are associated with liberalism. Others, like loyalty and respect for authority, are associated with conservatism. Football is obviously not just for conservatives, but it does embody the conservative virtues. The backlash against it is a signpost of a new social system unwilling to consider that the worldview of one’s political adversaries might have any wisdom to offer at all and untroubled by the fear that, perhaps, football exists because it channels a genuine, deep-seated impulse. In this case, that discipline might be a helpful response to impulses of aggression, and not just a false-heroic myth used to legitimize and justify brutality.

…Absurd as it may sound to say this about a career as a second-stringer for an average team, nothing I’ve done in my life felt as important at the time I was doing it…It is the adventure of your life, a chance to prove yourself as a man before other boy-men who, even if you never see them again, you will always regard as brothers-in-arms.

This is an increasingly antiquated conception of male socialization. George Orwell, the old socialist, was well ahead of his time when he scribbled out an angry rant against the sporting ethic, which, he wrote, “is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” That is all more or less true. But shooting is precisely the problem with war. War minus the shooting is actually pretty great.

I never played football myself, but I come from the midwest and my father was a high school football coach, so maybe I’m not neutral.  Nevertheless, I know an attack on masculinity when I see it, so I appreciate Chait’s empathy.

Criminalizing disrespect–cross-post

Reactionaries around the web are disturbed by revisions to the Education at of Alberta that make it against the law to show “disrespect” for “differences” when educating children–even in private schools or in the home:

“Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening.

“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” she added.

“Disrespect for differences”–what can this mean?  Maybe all those people who think that America should adopt the metric system–surely this is shows damnable zeal for uniformity?  Just to be safe, I think the Beach Boys should have to explain precisely what they meant when they said they “wish they all could be California girls”.  Limiting ourselves to Canada, perhaps all educational materials should be reviewed to purge that nation’s most prevalent Other-directed hostility, namely contempt and hatred for the United States.

Sorry, I know the whole “playing dumb” act is getting tedious; I think this time around I’m the only one who’s bothered with it.  We all know that “disrespect” for these sorts of “differences” is in no danger of being suppressed, just as everyone always knew that English laws against disrespecting religions would never be applied to reign in the rampant anti-Catholicism of the BBC.  “Inciting hatred of a religion” is liberals’ way of saying “criticizing Muslims”.  Also, remember liberals’ outrage when someone demanded that their own gender antidiscrimination laws be enforced as written?  Similarly, when Canadian liberals decide to criminalize disapproval of homosexuality, they invoke a very abstract and neutral-sounding principle as its justification:  “we will not tolerate disrespect for differences”.  Stated this way, the principle is vague to the point of meaninglessness, rather like the principle that one may not “discriminate”.  Theoretically, the two principles contradict each other, since anti-discrimination is itself a hostility toward differences.  In practice, any act can be framed as affirming or denying differences of some sort, and it can be framed as discriminating by some quality or not by some other.

Liberals’ vague principles only acquire any sort of meaning when they’re read through the liberal frame of official oppressor groups and victim groups.  When they say “we will not tolerate disrespect for differences”, they mean “we will not tolerate members of oppressor groups expressing disrespect or criticism toward members of victim groups”.  Therefore, in anything that might be construed in an instructional setting (and soon any interaction between children and adults will be so characterized; note that home environments have already been explicitly included), oppressor adults speaking to their oppressor children may not make any negative statement about victim groups or allude to any standard under which a victim group would come off looking worse than an oppressor group.  So, a Christian or morally conservative (but non-Muslim) parent, being officially an oppressor, may not disapprove of homosexuality, since that would mean showing disrespect for the behavior of homosexuals, who are an official victim group.  Both sides understand that this is what the law and the principle behind it mean.  What’s more, I imagine one can’t be sneaky and, while not directly criticizing homosexuality, teach a “heteronormative” form of sexual morality, one that stresses gender complementarity.  After all, if such a moral system is true, it would imply that sodomy is immoral, and the child could infer this on his own.  Really, the whole Christian, Muslim, and natural law moral traditions must effectively be proscribed.

There are, I’m sure, other forms of disrespect that Alberta would think it worthwhile to extirpate.  Whites having an affection for their race and Christians thinking their religion superior to heathendom are always popular targets.  Right now, though, sodomy is the elite’s great cause.

Of course, I disapprove of state persecution of Christianity, but I appreciate that liberals who advocate for it are only following out principles they believe to be just and true.  The thing that irritates me to no end is all the dishonesty.  Why can’t we just have laws that state plainly what is being outlawed?  Why not just have a law saying “Muslims in Great Britain are a privileged class; no criticism of them will be tolerated”?  Or a law saying “Alberta is a Sodomitical Republic; all children shall be instructed in the doctrines of androgynism; Christianity may not be taught here in public or private”?  I was actually pleased a while back when a university official explicitly said that hate speech protections don’t apply to Christians.  The honesty was so very refreshing.

Birth control and the rhetorical tics of the Left–cross-post

The HHS mandate has certainly been a boon to bloggers.  Much worthwhile has been said about why are enemies are compelled by their beliefs to instrumentalize sex, marginalize the traditional family, and make war on the Church.  I’ve almost stopped getting angry at them for these things, since they do follow as a matter of logical necessity from the guiding beliefs of the age.  What I still find especially irritating about the Leftist hivemind is not just that they all have the same thoughts, but that they even come packaged and expressed in the same terms.  Leftism is being even more perverse than it has to be.

1) What about the men?

Contraception, we are told, must be free because it’s important to women, either to the sacred cause of “women’s health” or the even more sacred cause of “women’s choices.”  Now, just as you would never guess from the liberals’ rhetoric about “choice” that abortion actually involves snuffing out a fetus, you could listen to hours of their talk about “women’s health” without being reminded that contraception is about preventing the arrival of new children.  Liberals like to be abstract, but I expect most of my readers have already had “the talk” with their parents and know that not just any activity results in pregnancy.  We’re talking about heterosexual intercourse and nothing else.  Conception means that someone has just become a mother, and someone else has just become a father.  Becoming a mother is a big deal, but so is becoming a father.  So it seems that two people’s strong interests are involved in each contraceptive use.

So, why never mention the fathers?  Again, this isn’t Bonald being a heteronormative meanie–everybody knows that sex that results in pregnancy always involves a woman and a man.  One would think that it would actually strengthen Obama’s case to refer to the men as well; he could say that he’s protecting the interests of both halfs of the population.  Wouldn’t that make the mandate twice as good?  Neither women nor men are to be punished with babies!  Yet neither the White House nor its media lapdogs have done any such thing.

There are several reasons.  First, to bring up men’s interests would mean referring to what exactly it is that contraception is designed to frustrate, and the Left is squeemish about this, preferring their vague statements about “women’s health” and “family planning”.  More importantly, men are not a designated victim group.  It is therefore wrong to be solicitous of their interests.  They deserve to be punished.  In fact, a measure that benefits women actually becomes less attractive if it also benefits men.  The purity of the legislator’s intentions is brought into doubt.  How can we know that what motivates them is really the good goal (helping women) and not the bad, selfish goal (helping men)?

2) How much is hidden in “harm” and “fairness”

Jonathan Haidt claims that liberals restrict their moral reasoning to considerations of “avoiding harm” and “fairness”, which conservatives also consider authority, group loyalty, and purity/sacrality.  This is the case here.  Calls to protect “women’s health” protest some unspecified harm that comes to women who don’t have a free means to sterilize themselves.  Calls to protect their “choices” most likely derive their force from a sense that rich women get all these (unspecified) advantages of self-sterilization, so we must level the playing field for poor women.

Interestingly, it is the liberals’ criteria that are most reliant on a robust sense of human nature and human flourishing.  The harm and fairness cases both assume that contraception contributes to human flourishing, that it is a fundamental human good.  Of course, this is exactly the point in dispute.  If the traditional Christian and Catholic view is correct, then contraception is degrading and wicked.  Helping someone do something wicked and degrading is like sneaking drugs to an addict or porn to a compusive masturbator; they may be grateful, but you are not really helping them.  You’re keeping them enslaved to disordered desires and blocked from genuine goods.

But let’s be agnostic for a second, and not assume that Catholic sexual morality is correct.  Let’s not assume that birth control is intrinsically evil.  Suppose we even assumed that it is some sort of good.  One still hasn’t gotten to the liberal view of things.  They don’t just take contraception to be a good; they take it to be a fundamental good.  They say, in their confused but definite way, that denying a person birth control pills can block her from achieving the good life.  Why else employ the dread measure of state coercion?  The state doesn’t mandate that every good be available to every person.  There’s no push to make sure every poor person has their own microscope, even though knowledge about the natural world is generally regarded as a good thing.  It’s a fine thing to be able to look at cells, but some form of a good life is possible without it.

Liberals regard a situation where someone who is not in a position to have another child must abstain from sex as intolerable.

Is that true?  I certainly don’t think so.  One thing that is certain is that it is not a morally neutral claim.  With their birth control fanaticism, liberalism has abandoned its founding pretense to be a neutral arbiter between competing comprehensive moral doctrines.  It was always a sham, as everyone who’s been on the receiving end of the liberal stick knows.  A Cartesian view of the body as a meaningless machine coupled with a crude utilitarian ethic is the officially established and legally enforced dogma of the modern State.  There is no neutrality on matters of sex.  In the public schools and juvenile justice system there hasn’t been for a long time.  Government officials who would never dream of telling children to stop fornicating have no trouble ordering them to use condoms.

3) On the opposition “playing politics”

An interesting tick in liberal defenses of the administration, for example the ones Proph and Larry Auster have referenced, is their accusation that the opposition is engaging in some sort of partisan stunt.  I’ve seen this pattern over and over again.  The Left launches an attack on some sector of traditional society.  (They are the progressives; they are aggressors by definition.)  The attacked parties complain, which I wouldn’t think would surprise anyone.  The Left, however, is outraged by their victims’ behavior.  (They don’t feign outrage; I’m convinced they really feal it.)  The Left sees itself as the aggreived party.  What’s more, they don’t even give their opponents the courtesy of assuming that they are sincere in their beliefs.  They immediately accuse them of manufacturing a publicity stunt so that, out of pure malice, they can derail benevolent Leftist initiatives to which no one could genuinely object.

In this case, it’s those sinister Catholic bishops in cahoots with sinister Republican politicians who planned this whole thing just to make Obama and his health care initiatives look bad.  Why did they do this?  Insert any standard Leftist demonological explanation:  they hate women; they hate poor people; they hate Obama becaue he’s black; they’re the 1%, etc, etc, etc.

This is an interesting position to take.  The New York Times and the rest of the liberal propaganda machine have decided not to be outraged that the Catholic Church condemns contraception, but that it has decided to create publicity stunts designed to get Republicans into office.  This lets them salvage their tolerant & neutral credentials a bit.  But does it really make sense?  Put aside for the moment that most of the episcopate is pretty clearly pro-Democratic and pro-Obamacare.  If we admit that the Church’s prohibition of contraception predates (by quite a healthy stretch of time) any use it might possibly have for American partisan polemics, if we admit that the Church is sincere in its condemnation, then one must admit that the Church would have to find the mandate intolerable.  By their own principles, the bishops would be compelled to protest it.  So are the liberals angry about the way that Church went about this?  “Okay, so I understand that this is something that’s going to upset you.  Why did you have to generate all this publicity?  Don’t you know that this is going to help those people?”  Should the Church have been more discrete in its complaints?  Perhaps the pope should have addressed the president behind closed doors, with hat in hand, or maybe prostrated before the presidential throne.  He could then beg for a favor.  When summarily rejected, he would have the sense to thank the president for granting him an audience; then he’d go back to Rome and the Church would make no further trouble.

The problem is that the president and his officials are birth control fanatics; they refuse to reconsider or even discuss their commitment to universal contraception.  If anyone was to win any concessions, it would have to be against Obama’s will; he would have to be compelled by legal or electoral force.

As Proph has pointed out, it’s really amazing how a single perspective–not only a single position, but a single formulation of it–so quickly materializes over the whole Left.

Hodson and Busseri (2012): second thoughts

The assumptions about social conservatism and ingroup-outgroup dynamics are odd:

According to social-dominance theory, the positive association between right-wing ideologies and negative evaluations of out-groups reflects the fact that both constructs share the core psychological element of a desire for hierarchies among groups (Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996). Socially conservative ideologies have therefore been conceptualized as “legitimizing myths”: Although they are often rooted in socially acceptable values and traditions, such ideologies nonetheless facilitate negative attitudes toward out-groups (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999; see also Jost et al., 2003; Sidanius et al., 1996; Van Hiel et al., 2010).

I would have thought that social conservatism and right-wing authoritarianism would rather be marked by a desire for hierarchies within groups.   Our paradigm for hierarchy is the legitimate authority and its subjects, which assumes a shared allegiance.  No doubt this reflects the social conditions of our primate ancestors, which engendered a mentality my fellow social conservatives and I are as yet too simple-minded to outgrow.  Be that as it may, out-groups are only conceptualized in a hierarchical relationship to the in-group to the extent that they are not seen as out-groups at all, but as accepted (even if perhaps inferior in status) parts of the social structure.  The natural categories for out-groups, at least to our unrefined minds, are ally and enemy, which are not hierarchical relationships at all.

What really seems off is their identification of out-groups

In a report of a recent American study, Keiller (2010) argued that the capacity for abstract (as opposed to concrete) thinking should facilitate comprehension of other people and the complex mental processing required for the interpretation of relatively novel information (i.e., the type of information encountered during intergroup contact). For instance, adopting another person’s perspective requires advanced cognitive processing, abstraction, and interpretation, particularly when the target is an out-group member (and thus “different”).  Given that perspective taking reduces prejudice (Hodson, Choma, & Costello, 2009), stronger mental capabilities may facilitate smoother intergroup interactions. Consistent with this rationale is Keiller’s finding that abstract reasoning negatively predicted prejudice against homosexuals…

Our results confirmed each component of the predicted model (see Fig. 2). Abstract reasoning negatively predicted prejudice, but this effect was significantly reduced when we included the mediators in the model. Lower levels of abstract reasoning also predicted greater right-wing authoritarianism, which in turn predicted elevated prejudice against homosexuals.  Independent of these effects, there was a simultaneous indirect effect through increased intergroup contact: Individuals who had a greater capacity for abstract reasoning experienced more contact with out-groups, and more contact predicted less prejudice

Notice the identification of homosexuals as an out-group.  What does one mean when one says that homosexuals are a “group”?  First, a group might just mean all the members of a category, and in this sense no one would deny that homosexuals are a group:  they’re the members of the set of all humans experiencing same-sex attraction disorder.  However, this alone isn’t enough to make the ideas of in-group/out-group dynamics applicable.  Liberals no doubt have a certain distaste for members of the “group” of murderers and members of the “group” of extortionists.  These are obviously not cases of an in-group being hostile to an out-group.  For that to make sense, the group in question must also have some sort of common life, that is, be a sort of rival community.  This is certainly the way liberals see homosexuals, as members of a minority group, the “gay community”.  It’s generally not the way conservatives have historically tended to see them.  Social conservatives have been more likely to regard homosexuals as deviant individuals, members of the shared community who are violating its norms.  Homosexual activism has changed this perception somewhat, making it clear that the norms being violated are not the homosexuals’ own, but the real import of this is to identify homosexuals as members of the group “liberals”.  Social conservatives do have some hostility to the liberal out-group, not because they fit into the category “hierarchical inferiors” but because they fit into the category “enemy/threat”.  The homosexual is still disliked qua homosexual primarily as a deviant individual.  Conservatives don’t take the “gay community” very seriously, it being little like the biological, religious, and political communities whose importance we recognize.  Saying that gays are disliked for their foreignness doesn’t quite capture the motivation.

It may be that the liberal is right, and that homosexuals should be regarded as members of a distinct and thick community rather than as individuals who engage in a particular act.  However, if the goal is to understand the conservative mentality, one must not rely on characterizations that conservatives themselves wouldn’t acknowledge.

Hodson and Busseri (2012): first thoughts

Reference

1)  Nice of them to insist that social conservatism and racism are theoretically distinct phenomena.

2) Sure, there’s a correlation between our beliefs and stupidity, but how lopsided are the smart and dumb populations?  From the paper:

When the effects are expressed as a binomial effect size
display, the implications are compelling: In the BCS, 62% of
boys and 65% of girls whose level of intelligence was below the
median at age 10 expressed above-median levels of racism during
adulthood. Conversely, only 35% to 38% of the children
with above-median levels of intelligence exhibited racist attitudes
as adults. Keiller’s (2010) cross-sectional data revealed a
similarly impressive binomial effect: Sixty-eight percent of
individuals whose abstract-reasoning scores were below the
median scored above the median on measures of antihomosexual
bias.

So, if you know someone is smart, there’s a better than 50-50 chance he’s a liberal, but it’s not such a big chance that you could take it for granted.  If 35% of smart people are conservative, that would be enough to debunk the liberal prejudice about us.

(Of course, it would be nice to get more information here.  It could be, for example, that super-smart people are monolithically liberal, or that my beliefs–the extreme Right-end–are entirely limited to the brick-stupid.  Liberals would no doubt be gratified to learn such things, but let’s wait and see if we can track down the data.)

3) They double down on the “seeing things from other peoples’ perspectives is cognitively hard” line:

In a report of a recent American study, Keiller (2010) argued
that the capacity for abstract (as opposed to concrete) thinking
should facilitate comprehension of other people and the
complex mental processing required for the interpretation of
relatively novel information (i.e., the type of information
encountered during intergroup contact). For instance, adopting
another person’s perspective requires advanced cognitive
processing, abstraction, and interpretation, particularly when
the target is an out-group member (and thus “different”).
Given that perspective taking reduces prejudice (Hodson,
Choma, & Costello, 2009), stronger mental capabilities may
facilitate smoother intergroup interactions.

As I said before, this is just silly.  It takes no brains at all to think about things from another person’s perspective, so long as that perspective consists of nothing more complicated than interests and feelings.  Let’s give it a shot.  “Hey, if I wanted to have sex with men, wouldn’t it be great if everybody approved and I could indulge myself?”  Wow, that was really hard, right?

Being utilitarians, though, liberals think that seeing things from other peoples’ perspectives so that you can impartially weigh happiness and harm, is simply all there is to morality.  They can’t imagine that anyone does practical reasoning any other way.  So if I have beliefs about the language of the body and the telos of sex I should count that as a perspective among many–a subjective preference, really–that, if I’m smart enough, I’ll overcome and defer to others’ preferences.  But of course this is not how nonliberals think.  The perspective of natural law isn’t the perspective of any particular subject; it’s objective (a “view from nowhere”) or it’s nothing.  If I believe I have an objective view, than the raw cognitive ability to appropriate more varied subjective views isn’t going to change my conclusions.  I’ll just end up thinking “isn’t it a shame that justice and the truth prevent me from assuaging some peoples’ feelings?”

It must be a wonder to liberals that the intelligence-prejudice anticorrelation isn’t actually much stronger.  After all, for all of their talk about “complexity”, they must know that moral reasoning as they recognize it is not very complicated or subtle.  And as they see it, if someone doesn’t accept their moral reasoning, it can only be because we weren’t smart enough to understand it.  Which means we really must be spectacularly stupid.  Given how things must seem to them, they really are remarkably polite and respectful to us.

What is the intellect for?

There’s a lot to say about the Hodson et al study on the stupidity of us social conservatives.  I’ve only started the Psychological Science article, so I’ll hold off on discussing its methodology and results until I understand them better.  However, there’s something that jumped out at me in LiveScience popular article summarizing the study.  It’s something that I hear liberals say a lot, so I’d like to start already with a discussion of that.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience…

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

“Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order,” Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice.”

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like “every kid is a genius in his or her own way,” might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

“My speculation is that it’s not as simple as their model presents it,” Nosek said. “I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where ‘People I don’t know are threats’ and ‘The world is a dangerous place‘. … Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful.”

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group’s point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

“There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners,” Hodson said. “Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups,” rather than thoughts.

So, dumb people need “structure and order”–they tend to “simplify”–whereas smart people are comfortable with “complexity”.   One does wonder what the point is in being smart.  After all, apprehending structure and order is the entire function of the mind.  It seems odd that people who are really good at this have a tendency to abstain from doing it.  “Simplifying” is the key analytic activity.  Understanding is always an act of simplification, of identifying essential facts and discarding the rest.  When Galileo discovered the principle of equivalence–that everything falls in the same way–it was a drastically simplifying claim, and–because the simplification proved to be correct (at least in all experiments to date)–a major scientific breakthrough.

There is a species of Leftist academic, usually found in the humanities, who makes a fetish instead of “problematizing” things.  He feels a need to always attack general laws, to focus solely on alleged exceptions.  Having smashed–in his imagination, at any rate–every general law, be it absolute, essential, or probabilistic, his mind is freed to embrace complexity.  In fact, his mind has been made completely empty.  He has nothing left to say about the world except for isolated and meaningless individual facts.

This is the “higher stupidity”.  In times past, an intelligent man was one who could recognize patterns too subtle for the average man to notice.  Today, an intelligent man is one who can construe not to notice what everyone else finds to be obvious.  By single-minded focus on unusual cases and caricaturing the traditional view so that he can easily refute it, today’s stupid geniuses think it pure irrationality to say that the purpose of sex is reproduction, that there are socially relevant gender differences, or that different races might have slightly different average properties.

(Of course, those experimenters who look for violations of the principle of equivalence might in some sense be said to be trying to “problematize” our theory of gravity, but that’s not really true.  They just want to make sure we’ve got the right simplification.  If deviations ever were found, it would be the job of physicists to find a new explanation, i.e. simplification, to fit the expanded set of facts.  Again, fewer relevant variables would be considered a virtue.)

Hodson, being a scientist, is not–at least by habit–a practitioner of the higher stupidity.  He proves that just by publishing this observed correlation.  He doesn’t object to conservatism providing order per se.  It’s not that conservatism simplifies (provides general statements about the world, divides facts into essential and accidental), but that it oversimplifies.  The article makes clear at the end that he regards liberal utilitarianism as a more adequate structure, and he believes the reason social conservatives don’t practice it is because we’re too dumb to do so.  Now, if he meant that his social conservative specimens can’t understand the liberal, tolerant positions, that would be a falsifiable statement that if investigated I think would quickly turn out to be false.  Ask an average “racist” or “homophobe” to explain the liberal point of view they reject, and I think you would find that they could articulate its key points.  “It’s okay as long as everyone consents” is not a difficult idea to grasp.  However, this isn’t what Hodson means.  He means that the practice of liberal utilitarianism, of viewing things from other peoples’ perspectives, is too mentally taxing for us.  This claim is harder to test, but it also seems odd to me.  I can’t imagine that anyone finds it hard to understand that homosexuals would feel happier and more secure if their lifestyle had universal approval, or that blacks would like it better if only they had a positive racial identity.

This brings us to Nosek’s objection.  Liberal tolerance/anti-discrimination is itself a very simple viewpoint.  It takes essentially no mental effort to say that anything that doesn’t result in harm is okay.  In fact, if we accept Jonathan Haidt’s research (see my previous post), then it would seem that conservatives bring more different moral perspectives to bear on problems than liberals.  The liberal sees different perspectives in a sense, but only in that he takes his simple harm/fairness concerns and evaluates them for many different subjects.  In other words, he takes the sort of practical reasoning the most simple-minded person could do, but then does it multiple times from the vantage point of each affected person.  The conservative engages a multitude of perspectives, perhaps not numerically as many as the liberal, but the different perspectives (harm/fairness/purity/loyalty/authority) are qualitatively different from each other.  Thus, one could argue that the social conservative and the racist are the truly broad-minded ones.

The above is only to criticize the explanation that’s being thrown out, not the observed correlations themselves.  Those may have some real substance.  (I expect they do, but I still have to read the paper.)  What, though, is the real explanation?

Joe Carter calls Jerry Salyer “fascist”

Back in November, Joe Carter at First Things launched an uninformed rant against Distributism, claiming that the whole thing comes from Lord of the Rings fans taking that book way too seriously.  It’s not clear how much Carter actually knows about Distributism–he doesn’t say anything about their key concern, the widespread ownership of productive property–because the details don’t seem to interest him.  In Carterville, there is capitalism and there is socialism and nothing else, and deviations from capitalism are evil because they are “coercion”.  (To see the silliness of the first claim, just glance at pre-1800 history.  Was hunter-gatherer tribalism capitalist or socialist?  Was feudalism capitalist or socialist?  How about the guild mercantile republics of the Renaissance?  The question doesn’t make sense prior to the modern separation of state and civil society.)  It took Front Porch Republic a while to respond, but eventually Jerry Salyer put out a reply.  It is, unfortunately, not one of this best pieces, but it does get across the key point that coercion is an inescapable part of common life, and by no means an evil in itself.  Democratic capitalism has its own forms of coercion, only less open and honest ones.  Carter replied in a comment, calling Salyer a fascist.  That’s when I lost every speck of respect I ever had for Joe Carter.  Calling people who criticize liberalism (e.g. economic liberalism a.k.a. capitalism) “fascist” is something that only Leftist hacks do, and that’s what Carter has revealed himself to be.  Carter’s other remarks became more and more difficult to follow–he makes some weird comment that the Distributists want to take penicillin away from us.  (Because it’s “capitalist”, I guess.  I wonder, did the Soviet Union have any modern medicine?  I suspect it did.)  Later on, Carter put up an attack on Front Porch Republic at First Things.  Again he laments that anyone could regard coercion as good and necessary.  He also cites John Médaille’s defense of monarchy.  He makes no arguments against Médaille’s points; he just throws up a quote and does the liberal point-and-stutter.  Apparently monarchism is so beyond the pale that we are just supposed to accept without argument that people who prefer Europe’s historical norm of government over the last two centuries of Jacobin innovation are dangerous radicals.  In Carterville, the people are God Almighty.  Which means, I suppose, that the pre-Enlightenment centuries of Christendom were just as dark and worthless as the atheists say they were.

I wish I had the time to write a reply that would do this subject justice, but I’m really busy with the beginning of the semester.  The main point, though, is that living in a community with a moral consensus (“X is what we do here”, “Y is wrong”) is an important part of human flourishing.  It is coercive by nature, but not degrading, because in submitting to it citizens acknowledge the moral order of the universe.  Liberalism (including capitalism, the ethos of the brothel) takes that away from people, strips all meaning from the public sphere and throws it in the private, where it slowly withers.  If we want to save Christianity and the patriarchal family, we must destroy capitalism.

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